The Best Thing I Ever Created: Alex Mathers on Creative Business


This is the latest in a monthly series in which industry leaders describe the projects and products that give them the most joy and pride. This month, illustrator Alex Mathers covers the importance of connectivity and community.

The best thing I’ve ever created is my web platform for helping independent creatives and professionals succeed and stand out, Red Lemon Club.

Let me give you a quick overview of my story. I studied geography at university in London some eight years ago; I spent three years learning about geopolitics, volcanoes, hurricanes, and tropical Africa. When I finished that, I decided to study a masters in real estate, because I wanted to be a property developer and build physical things.

This was a part-time course, so it allowed me to spend time focusing on other things, mainly teaching myself digital illustration. I’d always been good at — and enjoyed — drawing and art, so illustration came as fun to me, though I did have a plan to make money from doing it, also.

Over a few years, I’d built up a considerable portfolio of work, and was winning client work over the Internet, eventually with good clients. Within three or four years, I was working for myself 100 percent, and the property plan was sidelined for the time-being. I had to learn everything to do with running my own business and marketing my work in a short space of time.

A lot of the sources for what I learned came from fairly dry business books aimed at non-creative professionals, and much of it was complicated and difficult for many to get excited about.

RLC was born out of my desire to share what I’d learned as a freelance illustrator, and also as a means to simplify learning about marketing and business, dedicated to an audience of creative professionals, entrepreneurs, and small businesses, in particular.

A lot of those who decide to work for themselves in this way will have a comparatively large challenge to face in terms of gaining the knowledge and awareness needed to succeed over the long term. And much of this information, whether it be in managing your finances, making a sale, or connecting with people, is simply not a feature of any education they might have received until the point of actually finding themselves in the midst of it.

Many artists, for example, by the very nature of their self-directed work, often find themselves lost or confused when it comes to the decisions beyond the creation of the art itself. How do they find a customer; a client; an agent? How do they deal with taxes? How do they make their work available for showcase online? These are all questions RLC seeks to direct their attention toward, and to answer with clarity and compassion.

Today, four years after I started RLC, the site receives hundreds of thousands of readers each year, and I’ve been invited to speak about what I share through the site around the world.

I plan to build RLC into a major global school and continued source of inspiration for learning business, branding, and marketing, filling the gap for those creative people who were never introduced to such material on their own journeys.

Even though I’m very proud of what has been contributed through RLC so far, I feel that its real influence has only just begun.

Top image: Seamless texture of citrus backlit by Lisaveta.